Sender : Matthew Van Huizen
Two or three months ago, in Seremban, I fell into conversation with an uncle, a friendly man from church, middle-aged, a quite ordinary working man employed in the public service. Often times a figure of jocosity, he nevertheless had a rather serious demeanour about him that day.
After a sentence or two about the effects of the haze prevalent at that time, he suddenly remarked: "If I was rich, I would not stay here anymore, the nation has gone to the dogs”.
I tried to make a deprecatory reply that this haze wouldn't last forever; but he took no notice, and continued: "I have two children, a daughter and a son, both of them are about to finish school. I shan't be satisfied till I make sure they will go overseas. I fear for Malaysia, Seremban is no longer what it is, it is not the place I grew up in, and I feel like a stranger in my own country. Last week, my wife was harassed by a group of Bangladeshi workers on her way home..."
By repeating such a conversation, I am sure to be the recipient of more brickbats than bouquets from those who clamor and say that these foreigners are decent people.
But bear with me, here is a regular “uncle”, hardworking and honest who in my own town says that my country will not be worth living in for his children. He is not a fascist. He does not on every other Saturday, don a white mask and burn crosses. He is just the regular common man. Now, is he a xenophobe then, for not liking the increase in foreigners?
What he said, is indeed the griefs and the anxieties of countless other Malaysians. Can we afford to shrug our shoulders at them? The metropolitan bohemian liberal upper class who are immune to the effects of uncontrolled migration into the country will surely procced to brand this uncle and others like him, a series of defamatory adjectives, from bigot to xenophobe. I find this exercise of childish name-calling the height of silly jurisprudence; when the MoU wishing to add a further 1.5 Million foreign workers, it is those people who complain that this is nonsensical and detrimental to the country, get the brunt of the criticism and not the proponents of the MoU themselves.
As for me I cannot simply shrug my shoulders and convince myself to think about something else.
Recent statistics show that there are roughly 6 million foreigners here in Malaysia, made up of a panoply of nations ranging from Burma to Nigeria. In a country of 30 million people, that is about 20%. Staggering. Like it or not, there are differences of cultures between Malaysians and the migrants, and if they continue to increase, this will only result in tensions. The people who are conscious of these differences cannot be termed as xenophobes.
Yet there are some among us, a tiny minority who say that migrants benefit our economy, hence their effects must be beneficent. Are we all just monetarists here? Is there more to life than making money? They know the price of everything yet the value of nothing.
I recall then as a child, my late grandfather and I would visit an Ice-Cream goreng stall along Dato’ Sheikh Ahmad Street, smack in the middle of Seremban. It used to be the place where the majority of Seremban-ites frequented for lunch with its famous chicken rice shop or to watch a film at the now closed Cineplex. The ice cream man has since closed too, and the chicken rice shop I fear will go down the same route in a couple of years’ time. Walk along that road today and you are instantly transported to a district of Rangoon where no one speaks the language you know and it is unsafe to tread at night. Further down, at the Nam Keow Hotel, on payday you would notice in broad daylight, Bangladeshi workers lining up, and single file like school children at the tuck shop, not for a recess snack but rather to frequent the upstairs brothel. All this change happened in but a mere decade. A total alteration of the state capital.
Call me a xenophobe if you will, but I firmly believe that migration must be brought down to negligible proportions. The foreigners here illegal or otherwise, must be documented and then sent home as soon as possible. I fear when the MoU is carried out and when other further additions of foreigners to the labour force are done, that like Enoch Powell, I will seem to see the Tiber foaming with much blood.